Plating a food refers to presenting the item on a plate in a way that is tempting and appealing. Since our eyes view the food even before we take the first bite, plating the food in an enticing manner becomes a very important part of any dining experience. When serving appetizers, your goal is to provide small bites of food for your guests to enjoy with a beverage until the main entree is served -- enough to just whet the appetite without filling them. Balance, unity, focus and flow are primary considerations when placing the food on the plate.
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Draw several simple sketches representing the shape of the plate or platter, placing the appetizers in various places and positions on the plate. You are creating a visual practice platter that will clarify the most visually appealing layout of the appetizer. Planning ahead is an important step. Once you put the actual appetizers on the plate, you do not want to be moving them around. This could create a messy look to the platter, which would be unappealing.
Keep it simple. You want the food to look enticing, but not overly complicated or silly. You do not want to create any more work than necessary, especially if you will need to re-plate the appetizer several times. Everything on the plate or platter should be edible and complementary to the flavor of the appetizer. For example, instead of inedible items, use colorful garnishes like lemon slices or fresh herbs.
Arrange the food, starting at the center of the plate and building outward. This allows you to create the presentation in an orderly way, allowing you to improve on the appearance of the food as you moved outward. This also helps avoid brushing a sleeve or hand over food that has already been plated. Save the front of the plate or platter for the most attractive appetizer. Create a little height to the back portion of the platter, by mounding or stacking the appetizers attractively. Typically, the food presentation should be low at the front and rise slightly upward toward the rear of the plate.
Think about color as you are plating the appetizers. If the appetizers you are serving are bland in color, brighten the look of the plate with colorful garnishes and vegetables. Fresh herbs, wedges of fruit, a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds or some bright red chili peppers are a few examples of the richness and brilliance of color you can bring to the plate.